Where to Eat in Central & Downtown Phoenix

Editorial StaffOctober 31, 2023
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Our city center is also our ground zero for culinary craft.

Anhelo Restaurant. Photo by Charles Smith.

Anhelo Restaurant
Modern American
114 W. Adams St., Phoenix, 602-596-7745, anhelorestaurant.com

Young gun Ivan Jacobo dispenses elevated entrées such as seared halibut, scallops and beef Wellington. However, his best work is also his least expensive: toast topped with burrata, smoked prosciutto and seasonal fruit, and his famous crudo. $$-$$$

Artizen at The Camby Hotel 
2401 E. Camelback Rd., 602-522-6655, thecamby.com

The kitchen’s expertise is illustrated by its succulent flat iron steak. Fun Saturday boozy tea party, too. $$-$$$

Alexi’s Grill 
3550 N. Central Ave., 602-279-0982, alexisgrillphx.com

At noon, Alexi’s is filled with businesspeople who appreciate dependable, reasonably priced food and speedy service. Evening draws an older crowd that comes for the duck à l’orange, tasty pastas and seafood entrees. $$

2728 E. Thomas Rd., 602-956-0900, avanti-az.com

This Italian stalwart retains a loyal following that loves the house-made pastas, pappardelle with oxtail sauce and jumbo shrimp stuffed with king crab in lobster-vodka sauce. $$-$$$

The Arrogant Butcher
2 E. Jefferson St. (CityScape), 602-324-8502, foxrc.com

This Fox Restaurant Concept delivers a laid-back approach to upscale comfort food. Meat lovers will delight in much of the menu, which features barbecue pork loin sandwiches and beef short rib stew. $-$$ 

Belly Kitchen & Bar
Southeast Asian
4971 N. Seventh Ave., 602-296-4452, bellyphx.com

Known for adventurous cocktails and edgy riffs on Asian classics: crispy crab bánh xèo; PEI mussels, afloat in a fragrant broth of coconut milk and lemongrass; salty king mushrooms, zapped with Sichuan peppercorns; and crispy fried chicken shellacked in a fish-sauce-based glaze. $$

2320 E. Osborn Rd., 602-388-4874, binkleysrestaurant.com 

Offering just one seating a night, perennial James Beard Award nominee Kevin Binkley takes diners on a multi-course magic carpet ride that ranks with the country’s finest dining experiences. $$$$

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Globally inspired bar bites
1 W. Jefferson St., 602-340-1924, bitterandtwistedaz.com

From Arizona Cocktail Week founder Ross Simon comes this award-winning Downtown cocktail bar with brash, inventive drinks, globally inspired food and unpretentious big-city élan. $-$$$

Buck & Rider
4225 E. Camelback Rd., 602-346-0110, buckandrider.com

From La Grande Orange founder Bob Lynn comes this upscale seafood joint. Crab and fish dominate the menu with options including blue crabcakes and shrimp-studded pasta. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch on weekends. $$-$$$

Butler’s Easy
Cocktail lounge
8375 N. Seventh St., 602-314-4484, butlerseasy.com 

Housemade infusions, interesting tequilas and mezcals, and a beefy craft beer list set this speakeasy-ish Sunnyslope neighborhood bar apart from the pack. $-$$

Chilte. Photo by Adam Kindred.

Modern Mexican
765 Grand Ave., Phoenix, 602-807-5226, chiltephx.com

Don’t let the cute, kitschy décor fool you. Chef-owner Lawrence Smith turns out some of the city’s most exciting Mexican food, modern but grounded in tradition. You can’t really go wrong here, but the tacos that made him famous are a good place to start, and don’t miss the cheesecake. $$

Casa Corazon
2637 N. 16th St., 602-334-1917, casacorazonrestaurant.com

With its vaulted ceilings, pretty tiled floors and frescos, this classy Mexican restaurant transcends its “barrio” neighborhood, offering Mexican classics as well as specialties of Southern Mexico. $-$$

Century Grand
Cocktail lounge
3626 E. Indian School Rd., 602-739-1388, centurygrandphx.com

From mixology star Jason Asher comes this three-headed cocktail playground: a tiki-themed pirate ship, a New Orleans whisky bar and a Prohibition-era train car, all under one roof. Great fun. $$-$$$

Modern Mexican
1051 E. Camelback Rd., 602-699-3015, chanticophx.com

The huge menu wanders from affordable Tex-Mex to pricy fusion fare, but when it’s good (e.g. crispy duck leg with mole negro) it’s very good, indeed. $$-$$$

Charlie’s Tacos
Mexican food truck
727 W. Camelback Rd., 480-911-6333, charliestacotruck.com

This mobile taco kitchen has a permanent setup outside Charlie’s, a popular gay bar on the edge of the Melrose District. Open until 4 a.m. (!) on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Sundays. $

Chelsea’s Kitchen  
5040 N. 40th St., 602-957-2555, chelseaskitchenaz.com

With a lovely patio overlooking the Arizona Canal, Chelsea’s is a hip yet casual neighborhood restaurant, with stylish renditions of ceviche, fried chicken and duck tacos. The storied brunch features bottomless mimosas. $$-$$$

Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe
914 E. Camelback Rd., 602-248-9090, cherryblossom-az.com 

This venerable noodle house makes an ika mentai (chile squid) pasta that will change your life. Also great: the udon selections and the coffee jelly (a Jell-O-like dessert). $ 

Chico Malo
Modern Mexican
50 W. Jefferson St., 602-603-9363, chicomalo.com

Feisty and irreverent describes everything about this funky but chic restaurant and lounge, including the décor, the youthful servers and the modern Mexican menu. Don’t miss the tabeside guac and carne asada torta. $$-$$$

Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion
2501 E. Telawa Trail, 602-522-2344, wrigleymansion.com

Revered Valley chef Christopher Gross takes it to the next level at his newest and best restaurant. The décor, views, multi-course French-inspired menu ($250 per person) and service are all spectacular, so cough up that $500-plus and fasten your seatbelt. $$$$

6314 N. 12th St., 602-274-9700, feeneys.family

A friendly neighborhood restaurant specializing in great steaks and homemade soup. $$

New American
105 W. Portland St., 602-287-8700, fezoncentral.com

Quirky decor and far-fetched drinks appeal to hip crowds. $$

FLINT by Baltaire
2425 E. Camelback Rd., 602-812-4818, flintbybaltaire.com

This gorgeous L.A. import is all about wood and smoke – turning out wood-grilled or wood oven-roasted dishes such as steak, seafood and chicken, all given a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean accent. $$

The Gladly
New American
2201 E. Camelback Rd., 602-759-8132, thegladly.com

The Gladly’s inspired pub fare, crazy-good revivalist cocktails and stylish period digs encourage lingering. Nibble on the burrata caprese, adorned with seasonal fruit, veggies and herbs, or go for the gusto with the Wagyu burger, Pigstrami sandwich and coffee-charred short ribs. $$-$$$$

Glai Baan
Thai street food
2333 E. Osborn Rd. 602-595-5881, glaibaanaz.com

Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag offers a small menu of small plates meant to be shared, like out-of-this-world crispy chicken wings with garlic chips, and unusual daily specials like mackerel fried rice. $$

The Henry
4455 E. Camelback Rd., 480-429-8020, thehenryrestaurant.com

This restaurant is the kind of well-engineered hotspot that keeps loyal diners in orbit. Every ‘hood should have one. Stop by for kale and apple salad, braised short rib or Mediterranean branzino. $-$$

Highball Cocktail Bar
Cocktail lounge
1514 N. Seventh Ave., 602-675-4244, highballphx.com

Dimly lit and replete with chandeliers, leather couches, brick walls and a beautiful wooden bar, Highball whisks patrons away to a Prohibition-era speakeasy with a modern slant. Must-try: the earthy Shogun Powder, a twist on the Peruvian pisco sour made with matcha. $-$$

2650 E. Camelback Rd., 602-957-9700, hillstone.com

A stone’s throw from the former Houston’s at the Esplanade, with many of the same mouthwatering menu items. Don’t miss the Osaka-style pressed sushi or Chicago-style spinach dip. $$

Ingo’s Tasty Food
Two Valley locations, ingostastyfood.com

This casual eatery features a wrap-around patio with a front row seat to some of the best people-watching in Phoenix. Ingo’s mainstay is burgers, but the crispy chicken sandwich and fresh shattered potato chips are top-notch. $

La Grande Orange Grocery
4410 N. 40th St., 602-840-7777, lagrandeorangegrocery.com

This upscale market and deli serves a few simple but elegant breakfast selections, awesome green chile burgers and fanciful desserts baked in-house. $-$$

LON’s at The Hermosa Inn
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com

This romantic favorite oozes Old Arizona charm. The chefs source locally for their Southwestern-inflected menu, from the goat cheese in the salads to the berries served with the roasted steelhead trout. $$$

Los Dos Molinos
Two Valley locations, losdosmolinosphoenix.com

Some like it hot. But for those who like it hellish, there’s Los Dos, a beloved New Mexico-style restaurant located in cowboy star Tom Mix’s old house. $$

Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Mexican Seafood
1605 E. Garfield St., 602-462-1563, mariscosplayahermosa.com

It’s the Valley’s best Mexican seafood joint. Try anything with shrimp, including botana de camarón and camarónes fantasia, or the Veracruzian classic huanchinango: red snapper smothered in papaya sauce. $-$$$

Matt’s Big Breakfast
825 N. First St., 602-254-1074, mattsbigbreakfast.com
The famed breakfast haunt is as clean and cheerful as Mom’s kitchen – with better food. Five Valley locations, including Sky Harbor Airport. $

Noble Eatery
4525 N. 24th St., 602-688-2424, nobleeatery.com
This renowned, relaxed restaurant showcases organic legumes, artisanal meats and local produce in rotating daily sandwiches with seasonal ingredients and milky mozzarella. $

Neighborly Public House
Modern American
5538 N. Seventh St., 602-675-1852, neighborlypublichouse.com

This Uptown eatery may be serial restaurateur Chris Collins’s best restaurant so far, a casual but sophisticated spot for happy hour, weeknight dinner or date night. $-$$$

4900 E. Indian School Rd., 602-955-0358, ohsobrewery.com

With 36 microbrews on tap and an American-Mexican-Italian-Venezuelan-influenced menu, this Arcadia nanobrewery is hopping. $

Otro Café
6035 N. Seventh St., 602-266-0831, otrocafe.com

Standouts at Chef Doug Robson’s Central Mexican-inspired eatery include silky serrano ham with avocado and green olives, and a refreshing mint-kissed quinoa salad. $$

Oven + Vine
14 W. Vernon Ave., 602-687-7632, ovenandvine.com

This cozy neighborhood gathering spot in the Willo Historic District serves oven-baked comfort food, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches, plenty of draft beers and a sizeable list of wines by the glass. The restaurant also features an outside bar and patio. $-$$

Global Tapas/Small Plates
Two locations, palakitchen.com

Only foodies need apply for supremely simple Spanish tapas and South American-Italian dishes at this minimalist but charming bungalow. $$-$$$

New American
4700 N. Central Ave., 602-935-2932, persepshenarizona.com

From their cool rustic-industrial space in Uptown Phoenix, Jason and Katherine Dwight (butcher and baker, respectively) make everything from scratch: house-cured meats, bread, pickles, wood-fired veggies, a life-altering burger and some of the best desserts in town. $$-$$$

Phoenix City Grille
New American
5816 N. 16th St., 602-266-3001, phoenixcitygrille.com

A contemporary setting with black-and-white pics of old-time Phoenix make this neighborhood restaurant and bar a cool hangout for the R&R inclined. Try the griddled corn cakes, cedar-planked salmon and chocolate torte. $$

Pizzeria Bianco
623 E. Adams St., 602-258-8300, pizzeriabianco.com

Located in a beautiful historical building in Heritage Square, this tiny, always-packed Valley icon offers the best wood-fired pizzas in town, crafted largely from house-made and local ingredients. $-$$

5555 N. Seventh St. 602-264-5411

Go for the jukebox, pool tables and fun dive-bar vibe, stay for the legendary patty melt – formed and seasoned to order and served on griddled rye. $

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana
705 N. First St. 602-795-2555, pomopizzeria.com

Cooked in a 6,000-pound wood-burning oven imported from Italy, Pomo’s pizzas received a stamp of approval from the Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization that enforces pizza standards in Naples. The 12-inch pies can be paired with wines from the all-Italian wine list. For dessert, try a creamy panna cotta. $$

Modern American
702 W. Montecito Ave. 602-441-0553, progressphx.com

Culinary wunderkind TJ Culp is behind this charming restaurant in Melrose, where the short seasonal menu changes every four to six weeks. $-$$$

Rosso Italian. Photo by Rob Ballard.

Rosso Italian
2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-218-6001, rossoitalian.com

Don’t wait for a Downtown event to check out this modern Italian café from legendary Pomo chef Stefano Fabbri, devoted to Americanized Italian classics done uncommonly well. Graze on excellent appetizers such as calamari fritto and short ribs with polenta and be sure to order a Neapolitan-style pizza. $$

Ramen Kagawa
111 W. Monroe St. 602-675-0833, ramenkagawa.com

The digs are plain, but the Japanese food is the real deal, specializing in excellent ramen and a handful of classic yoshoku dishes such as tonkatsu and potato croquette, both ladled with thick, rich Japanese curry. $$

Reathrey Sekong
1312 E. Indian School Rd. 480-238-0238, sekongbynight.com

Introducing Phoenicians to the fresh flavors of Cambodia, this eatery serves up dishes like a spice-layered chicken curry and Amok fish, steamed in a banana leaf and smeared with kaffir coconut cream. $-$$

Renata’s Hearth
2400 E. Missouri Ave. 602-954-2507, renatashearth.com

The seasonal menu at this Latin-influenced eatery at the Arizona Biltmore zeroes in on seafood-focused small plates (oysters, ceviche, grilled shrimp) and shareable platters for the table. Massive slabs of fatty pork belly, roasted to an umber crunch, are supremely satisfying. $$$

Restaurant Atoyac
1830 W. Glendale Ave. 602-864-2746

Get a taste of Oaxacan cuisine at this unpretentious roadside diner with superlative fish tacos served with smoky grilled onions and jalapeños. Desserts include dreamy fruit paletas. $

Rice Paper
2221 N. Seventh St. 602-252-3326, ricepapereatery.com

This bright, modern space makes a wider assortment of Vietnamese food accessible with an array of imaginative rolls, including soft-shell crab with mango and avocado. $$

Rough Rider
1001 N. Central Ave. 602-675-0439, roughrideraz.com

From the Victorian décor to the lithographed drink menu, this basement speakeasy is ticklishly on point. $$-$$$

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey. Photo by Claudia Johnstone.

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey
4232 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix , 602-675-4020, sandfishsushiwhiskey.com

This cozy, Scandinavian-designed Japanese restaurant and sushi bar is a great place for hanging out over premium spirits, including a great selection of Japanese whiskies. The large menu leans toward sushi bar standards (nigiri, rolls and the like) but also features more exotic options such as bao buns, duck liver mousse and octopus carpaccio, much of it pricy. $$$

Seydi’s Pupuseria & Grill
2625 E. Greenway Pkwy. 602-404-7634

Painted the bright blue of the Salvadoran flag, this friendly mom-and-son restaurant hangs its hat on cheesy, melty, hot-pocket-like pupusas, but everything is well-prepared and remarkably inexpensive. $

Southern Rail
300 W. Camelback Rd. 602-200-0085, southernrailaz.com

Indulge in cleverly named cocktails, pickled fried green tomatoes, smoked chicken gumbo and otherworldly bread pudding at this Uptown offering from chef Justin Beckett. $$-$$$

The Stockyards
5009 E. Washington St. 602-273-7378, stockyardssteakhouse.com

Established in 1947, this recently spruced-up reminder of Phoenix’s cowboy roots – complete with a hand-carved bar and crystal chandeliers – turns out great steaks, prime rib, buffalo meatloaf, citrus-chile-glazed salmon and barbecue baby-back ribs. Lunch M-F; dinner nightly. $$-$$$

Sottise. Photo by David Blakeman.

1025 N. Second St., Phoenix, 602-254-6378, sottisephx.com

Sit on the deep porch and sip a carefully curated wine at this charming French bistro and wine bar, baby sis to TJ Culp’s equally charming Restaurant Progress. The grazing menu, which offers a few entrees (don’t miss the pork shank or the pesto pasta) runs to classic French – escargots, baked and melting Camembert, pâté and salmon rillettes, all of it outstanding. $$-$$$

Taco Chelo
501 E. Roosevelt St. 602-368-5316, tacochelo.com

Quick, cheap and delicious: All accurate descriptors for the home-style Mexican food from this great-looking beautiful Roosevelt Row space, designed by artist Gennaro Garcia and co-owned by restaurant empire builder Aaron Chamberlin. $

Tacos Chiwas
Three Valley locations, tacoschiwas.com

At first glance, this Midtown taqueria may appear to be a bare-bones operation in modest surroundings – but this James Beard nominee is hardly just another mom-and-pop taco joint. From the slow-roasted meats to the tripe tacos, Tacos Chiwas screams authenticity. $

Tacos Huicho
1941 E. Oak St. 480-398-6766, tacoshuichoaz.com

It’s the al pastor that clinches our enduring loyalty to this Midtown taqueria: sweet, smoky and shaved right off the trompo, i.e. the vertical, shawarma-style spit that distinguishes all true al pastor from the candied, pan-fried stuff you usually find. $

New American
3213 E. Camelback Rd. 602-955-8100, tarbells.com

This restaurant remains a hotspot for a host of reasons, namely its American comfort food menu, great wine list, clientele of local movers and shakers and its affable host, Mark Tarbell. Try the wood-fired pizzas, the organic veggie plate or the spaghetti and meatballs, saving room for perfect chocolate mousse. $$$

6003 N. 16th St. 602-248-7827, texazgrill.com

This is the best example of a down-home Texas bar and steakhouse in Arizona. The reasonably priced food is basic but delicious. Best bets are steaks, burgers and chicken-fried steak. $$

Thai E-San
616 W. Indian School Rd. 602-297-8888, thaiesanphx.com

Located in an unassuming building off of Seventh Avenue, Thai E-San specializes in delicious delicacies from the Isan region of Thailand. Hand-picked produce and natural palm sugar and spices imported from co-owner Rodger Pongtratic’s hometown of Phetchaburi are used to ensure authenticity, quality and taste. $-$$

Thai Rama
1221 W. Camelback Rd. 602-285-1123, thai-rama-az.com

Check out this low-key spot for an authentic and inexpensive meal. Satay, mee krob, thohd mahn, soups, stir fries, curries… it’s all here. $-$$

1505 E. Van Buren St. 602-296-7761, trattophx.com

Legendary pizza maker Chris Bianco hits the bullseye with rustic Italian fare dished up in farmstead digs. The seasonal, evolving menu includes starters like baby artichokes alla romano and roasted beets with gorgonzola, which pave the way for heartier dishes including meaty pastas and fall-off-the-bone pork Milanese. $$-$$$

New American
4130 N. Seventh Ave. 602-277-5561, valentinephx.com

This midcentury-modern bar and eatery in Melrose has become the city’s hippest hangout for its classic but twisty cocktails and out-of-the-box cooking – e.g. quark-dappled blue oyster mushrooms, so mind-blowing they give new meaning to the words “Blue Oyster Cult.” $$-$$$

Latin-inspired Modern American
3433 N. 56th St. 602-675-2000, vecinaphx.com

James Fox and Eric Stone get everything right at this small neighborhood hangout, offering great cocktails and a view of Camelback Mountain, not to mention terrific Latin-inspired dishes such as ceviche and barbacoa tostadas. $$

Veggie Village
1255 E. Northern Ave. 602-944-1088, vegvillage888.com

This nouveau Asian eatery offers chicken, fish, ham, even mutton… mock-meat approximations of them, anyway, crafted from mushroom, eggplant, tofu and other vegetable proteins. General Tso’s “chicken” isn’t just good for vegetarian food – it’s good, period. $

Vincent on Camelback
3930 E. Camelback Rd. 602-224-0225, vincentsoncamelback.com

Famed for his French-inspired Southwestern Cuisine, Vincent Guerithault keeps classic favorites such as smoked-salmon quesadillas on the menu, while offering a taste of Provence with duck confit with green olive sauce. $$$

1515 N. Seventh Ave. 602-252-2541, vovomeena.com

Come to this Roosevelt-area breakfast favorite, and blow your daily sugar quota on fantastic banana bread pudding French toast served with whiskey-kissed caramel sauce. $$

Wild Thaiger
2631 N. Central Ave., 602-241-8995,wildthaiger.com

Drop by this pretty restaurant for lunch and you’ll find fresh, simple Thai dishes. The dinner menu, which offers tamarind shrimp and beef filet with papaya salad, is far more fun. $$

The Womack
Cocktail lounge
5749 N. Seventh St., 602-283-5232, thewomack.us

One upon a time, a muggy, dimly lit juke joint called Chez Nous was the place to be for Downtown dance-floor habituées. Ultimately razed to make way for a Fresh & Easy, it was resurrected years later in the form of this dance club on the Seventh Street dining drag. $$

2502 E. Camelback Rd. 602-424-9500, zinburgeraz.com

Relaxed and cheeky, Zinburger pioneered the Valley’s upscale-burger scene. Enjoy a deliciously stacked Zinburger, with manchego cheese and zinfandel-braised onions, while sitting opposite a giant mural of ruminating cows. Turkey burgers, veggie patties and delicious salads are also on the menu.  $$